Melky Cabrera and other additions make White Sox relevant again
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And on the seventh day, the White Sox would not rest.
Not after trading for Jeff Samardzija and Dan Jennings and signing David Robertson in an extraordinary week that turned the 2015 Sox from “maybes” to “bona fide contenders” in the American League Central.
The winter-meetings flurry followed the November signings of cleanup hitter Adam LaRoche and lefty reliever Zach Duke. But that wasn’t nearly enough for chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, executive vice president Ken Williams and general manager Rick Hahn, who must have been bluffing when they said they were out of cash before they signed left fielder Melky Cabrera to a three-year, $42 million contract, first reported late Saturday.
Cabrera, the MVP of the 2012 All-Star Game, hit .301 this past season with 35 doubles, 16 homers and 73 RBI. The Sox need his switch-hitting and high on-base-percentage. Cabrera would fit nicely behind leadoff man Adam Eaton, and his defense, while not Gold Glove-caliber, is a significant upgrade in left over Dayan Viciedo, who figures to be traded.
The Sox already had taken the winter meetings by storm with the additions of Samardzija, a top-of-the-rotation starter, and Robertson, who closed for the Yankees last season. If trading for Samardzija at the risk of having him for one year didn’t prove the Sox were going for it, giving Robertson four years and $46 million clinched it.
Cabrera’s signing, which will become official when he passes a physical, hiked expectations to high and giddy levels.
“Samardzija and Robertson go ‘boom-boom,’ and you get so excited, and you can see how excited Chicago is,’’ Eaton said. “Then the Cubs sign [Jon] Lester, and that fuels the fire for us to make big moves, and then [Saturday] night comes the Melky move. To see those guys have a plan, put it in motion and see it play out is impressive.’’
Eaton, one of the key pieces in the Sox’ young core with Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, Jose Quintana and Avisail Garcia, expected Hahn to improve the team, but not like this.
“This many moves? I think everyone is shocked,’’ Eaton said. “It shows confidence in us, even though we had a rough year last year.”
Cabrera, 30, a career .286 hitter, doesn’t come without cost and perhaps some risk. Because he rejected a qualifying offer from the Blue Jays, who had hoped to re-sign him, the Sox will give up their third-round draft pick (their first is protected, and the second went to the Yankees for signing Robertson).
Plus, Cabrera received a 50-game suspension for elevated levels of testosterone with the Giants in 2012. That season, he was leading the National League in hits and was second with a .346 average when he was suspended Aug. 15. Major League Baseball and the players union disqualified him from the batting title — a measure Cabrera had requested — and the Giants left him off their playoff roster.
None of that mattered enough to the Sox. Reinsdorf, 78, who has watched attendance slowly but steadily decline since the Sox won the World Series in 2005, wants badly to win again, and as Williams has said since the GM meetings, the Sox — who lost 99 games in 2013 and 89 last season — are tired of “taking it on the chin.’’
“I can’t tell you how excited I am that Jerry, Kenny and Rick are going for it this year,” Sox broadcaster Steve Stone said. “If the Sox players have years like their careers suggest they will, this will be a very tough ballclub. It should really excite the fans and get them out to the ballpark.
“These last couple of weeks have been remarkable.’’